It was another grand and glorious day at the Thai Embassy on the occasion of the Asia-Pacific Ladies Friendship Society culture meeting. Princess Akishino was special guest and, as always, Benchapa Krairiksh, wife of the Thai Ambassador, went all out to make this a special occasion.
Guests were greeted at the door by costumed Thai dancers and a lively little boy, Tanat Ngaorungsi, in Thai children’s formal wear.
A photo exhibition highlighting the long-time relations between Thailand and Japan had been set up in one room. In another room there were demonstrations of basic Thai cooking, paper fan and umbrella painting and other handicrafts.
It was a beautiful day, and tables were set up in the spacious gardens of the residence. Guests were served Thai food while they enjoyed a program of Thai dancing and music. What a great way to spend an afternoon.
Saudi Ambassador Mohamed Kurdi and his wife Widad are one of the most gracious and hospitable couples I’ve had the privilege of knowing. In addition to their always people-packed National Day celebration, receptions for visiting dignitaries and special events, they invite friends once a month to their home for a laid-back evening of good people, superb food, Arabic music and the best of legendary Arab hospitality.
The evening I’m covering this week was both a happy and a sad affair. The happy was being with Mohamed, Widad and their (and my) friends and meeting newly arrived diplomat, Omani First Secretary Riyadh M. Macki. He obligingly played the traditional Arabic instrument, the oud, and sang. The man is good.
The sad part was the gathering, in a way, was a sayonara for two highly respected ambassadors, Omani Ambassador Mohammed AI-Khusaiby and Kuwaiti Ambassador Wal id Ali AI-Khobaizi. At the same time, friends had the opportunity to say goodbye to outgoing Egyptian Minister Afaf Elmazaariky.
Mohammed went to Washington, D.C., to be Omani Ambassador to the U.S., and Afaf is now in San Francisco. Walid was asked to stay on for a few months before returning to Kuwait for a very important position with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. My congratulations, by the way, to Widad who has done a masterful job of decorating the Kurdis’ home. The soft colors, tent-like ceilings and artistic containers of Saharan sand truly reflect Saudi Arabia.
Glamor galore at the home of Venezuelan Charge d’Affaires Maria Hernandez when she hosted a reception to meet Miss Venezuela, now the new Miss International, Vivian Urdaneta.
Other special guests included Miss Russia and second runner-up in the Miss International contest, Svetlana Victoruna Goreva. Japan was well represented by a trio of beauty queens.
It was a full house at the home of Israeli Ambassador Moshe Ben Yaacov and his wife Aviva when they hosted a sayonara. After four years in Japan, the well-liked couple have returned to Tel-Aviv. I was happy to see Papua New Guinean Ambassador Aiwa Olmi and his wife Bernadette and tell them how much I enjoyed my recent visit to their country.
Also enjoyed talking with Italian National Tourist Office director Enrico Maggi and his wife Jacqueline. They’ll be moving to New York in a few months and, needless to say, will be missed by their multitude of friends made in Tokyo.
Uruguayan Ambassador Ramiro Piriz and his dynamic wife Cecelia were there that evening, and I am very sorry I didn’t really get to know the ambassador who, as most of you know, died on Oct. 19. My heart and sympathy go out to Cecelia and the family. God rest his soul.
Israeli friends told me Moshe is so highly regarded back home, the government had a difficult time deciding on a new assignment for him. He has been appointed to head the Israeli postal and communications system, a very important job.
All our best to Moshe and Aviva back home, and our prayers as well for both sides in the current Mideast crisis and hopes for a peaceful and satisfactory settlement. It is not, as you know, an easy thing.
As always, missed several important and interesting events around town. These included a sayonara hosted by Greek Ambassador Elias Katsareas and his wife Maria for outgoing Greek Minister Spyros Aligas and his wife Georgia.
Min-On Concert Association continues to sponsor great cultural programs from all over the world. On Oct. 26, they presented “The Spirit of Ukraine” by the Ukrainian State Folk Dance Ensemble at Nakano Sun Plaza. It was an energetic and colorful event.
Sorry I had to miss the Oct. 27 dinner party hosted by Portuguese Ambassador Manuel Martins de Almeida Lelle at his home. The evening included a performance by a well-known Fado singer.
My thanks to 20th Century Fox man-in-Japan Geoff Bossiere for allowing me to take Yuki Kano of Continental Airlines to the Harrison Ford press conference. She’s a fan of the star who was here to promote “What Lies Beneath” for 20th.
Harrison, with his “bed-head” look (Japanese like the just-got-out-of-bed style), was laid-back, personable and showed his sense of humor during the conference. As Japan’s top translator for the stars, Natsuko Toda, pointed out, “Like good wine, he gets better as he gets older.”
The press conference was at the Hotel Okura, and I mentioned I was going to ask the hotel’s Managing Director Goro Yamazaki for a parking validation. “You know him1” Yuki exclaimed and went on to tell me they were good friends as fellow members of the Cornell Club.
Yuki, by the way, had just come from a lunch with the happening New York artist Marco. Called the new Keith Haring, Marco flew in on Continental for his exhibition, “Passion of YC” at Seibu Loft.
I really enjoyed hanging with some of the world’s top tennis players in Japan to play in the Sony-sponsored Japan Open Tennis Tournament. I especially enjoyed getting to know Morocco’s Hicham Arazi who did very well here, and Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten who, I’m sorry to say, did not do so well. I really pushed him to go back and sleep the night before his big match, but he was having too much fun in Roppongi to heed my advice.
Former Tokyoites Prof. Heitor Gurgulino de Sousa and his wife Lilian were in town for 10 days. When I told Lilian (she’s Brazilian) that Gustavo had partied at the Lex the night before, she told me she had gone to a big party he hosted at the Ritz Hotel in Paris after he won the French Open. She also met his 83-year-old grandmother he had flown to Paris for the celebration.
Dropped by Dr. Eugene Aksenoff’s International Clinic recently and ran into singer Diana King. She looks great with a tattoo on her forehead and a nose ring, both exotic additions she didn’t have when I first met her five years ago. Her performances at the Blue Note were sold out.
Dr. Aksenoff’s smiling, always helpful nurse (his entire staff is that way) Rumi Yamamoto was just back from diving in Cebu. She loves that part of the Philippines every bit as much as I do.
I really wish Eva Larsen would get the recognition and work she deserves. Her sense of color and style make her one of the most accomplished interior designers around. I took advantage of her talents by asking her to do the decorations for the Halloween party at the Lex.
She, along with two of my U.S. Navy friends, Billy Wayne Chapman from Oklahoma and Mike Konenzy, a former rodeo clown from Texas, really did a great job at the party. The three members of the group Fishbone helped by judging the costume contest on Halloween night. They livened things up, and Billy and Mike got tickets to their show, backstage passes and T-shirts. Good people all.
Congratulations to former Bangladesh Ambassador S.M. Rashed Ahmed and his wife Nilufer on the marriage of their beautiful daughter Naz to David Georgas. Sorry I could not get to the wedding at the Nassau Inn in Princeton, N.J., on Nov. 4. I heard it was really very special.
Congratulations to Warner Bros. Managing Director Bill Ireton and his staff on the beautiful new reception area, offices and screening room in the Hibiya Central Building. The ultra-modern facilities are located near Japanese and international restaurants, a post office and Tully’s Coffee.
If they need a haircut, they just go down to the B-1 floor and, if they want to ice skate during a lunch break in winter, there’s a large outdoor rink right next door.
Bill knows airlines as well as anyone I know and had to go to Alitalia’s ticketing office to arrange tickets for some of his staff. He had espresso with Alitalia’s Romano Mazucco and “loved the laid-back ambiance of the place. It’s like an Italian cafe with artists, opera singers and others just dropping by to say hello,” Bill told me. That’s the Italian way, and that’s Romano.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender